And the Last, Too
To give some credit to The Next Karate Kid, it was a film ahead of its time in terms of social awareness. Hilary Swank’s Julie finds herself harassed – even physically – by teen boys at her school. Each of them is trained by a militaristic coach who prides himself on violence and masculinity. He preaches right wing rhetoric about enemies at our borders, and assaults those he sees as weak. Men and manliness, at an extreme. Julie then rebuffs their advances in a feminist power fantasy.
The fantasy though is at issue. Not because Swank replaces Ralph Macchio in a series gender swap – that’s fine. Rather, it’s the preposterous set-up that sees Michael Ironside abusing teen students on a high school campus without anyone in administration seeing an issue. Like Karate Kid III’s antagonist, Ironside’s pro-war general is a cartoon villain, reducing Swank’s presence to that of an animated heroine rather than a genuine person with real world problems.
Preposterous is too kind a word
Preposterous is too kind a word
It’s not as of the derivative script helps either. Mr. Miyagi’s (Pat Morita) passive manner again affects a troubled teen, this one speaking of her dead parents in eye rolling, first act exposition. He begins training her in karate forms, this time alongside monks, drained of their essence as they turn into comic relief. The expected final brawl is induced as the mean boys bungee jump into prom (!), forcing Julie into action. Preposterous is too kind a word.
Next Karate Kid tries pushing Miyagi forward, using his past war experiences as cause for his pacifist nature. There’s the yin/yang – Miyagi vocally anti-war, Ironside’s Dugan ferociously for combat. A better film uses that as the onus, but Next Karate Kid is interested in high school drama. Flirtatious boys, cliques, and prom dresses; it’s a script better set for a Nickelodeon sitcom.
That’s not mentioning the story’s wackier sides, as if a crew of hyper-military kids dressed in black wasn’t enough. Julie’s love interest Eric (Chris Conrad) works as security for the railroad. That’s great for creative scenery, baffling how a 17 year-old (played by a 24 year-old) is seen as capable for such a gig. There’s an injured hawk that Julie heals, kept in a cage on the school’s roof. Apparently her school offers veterinary care as an elective. Being fair, that hawk does represent Julie’s past; as it heals, so does she. Letting it go to set-up the third act is Next Karate Kid’s lone emotional sequence. The rest is little more than teen and franchise exploitation.
Crammed onto a BD-25 along with its Karate Kid predecessor, the end results look akin to a DVD. There’s little boost in resolution or visible detail. Compression ensures Next Karate Kid remains limited in terms of visual fidelity.
Chunky blocks of artifacting fill every image. It’s worse when lights go down. Look at the wood floors during the monks dancing sequence, the banding so severe as to make the scene equal to CD-ROM era video. The nighttime finale is much the same.
Forget grain. All is lost to the digitalness. Maybe this is all for the best though since the print displays excessive dirt and scratches. Compression potentially hides additional faults from what looks like a multi-generational print.
To find anything notable, look to the color. That’s bright. A sequence where Julie babysits Nerf-obsessed kids shows plentiful saturation. It’s an attractive moment on a disc with only a handful of them.
Minor separation is noted from this Dolby Digital stereo offering. It’s a tight mix, barely stretching to any discrete moments.
A few ‘90s hits, including one from The Cranberries, give off pleasing fidelity. Thin dynamics allow for a smidgen of low-end support. A flat explosion late is an example of how weedy this track is. At least the dialog stays in balance.
If you like menus, good. That’s all Next Karate Kid offers.
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The Next Karate Kid
Dropping Ralph Macchio, The Next Karate Kid brings in Hilary Swank to push the series forward, but it’s too ludicrous and comical for the drama to stick.
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